In the month of January I started planning our annual pilgrimage. A selection of places to visit is fairly complicated. There is always an urge to go on the beaten track, have a safe holiday and come back. South America was always on my bucket list, but the thought of travelling long distances, time and money had kept me away from this option. I watch National Geographic quite a bit and their programmes invariably took me to SA. The more I watched, the more I got hooked on to this part of the world. By February I had homed in on Brazil, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. Age and associated health issues are factors which need to be considered while planning trips which are physically demanding and of long duration. For me, it was now or never.
A lot of friends and acquaintances thought this trip was an over reach from all angles – duration, expenses and the physical challenge. For one reason or the other, none came forward to participate in this odyssey. Some attributed their reluctance to undertake this trip citing security issues, they said’ all the countries you have chosen are unsafe, how can we travel in Bolivia, we will get mugged in Rio’ and so on. At one time it was just Jai and me.
When Jayanti’s colleague, Sushama heard of this audacious but adventurous plan, she very willingly jumped on the band wagon. I had been promising to take Rita, our ‘Sambhandi,’ on a trip and she readily agreed to join the gang. That made four of us.
Planning started in right earnest in end January. Be it South Africa or New Zealand or Cambodia and Vietnam, I always consult our globetrotting friend Kshama for advice. My first question to her as always was ‘will we able to do it?’. After she assured me that it was very doable, I started working out the details. To boost your confidence it is always good to ask someone who has done the trip. I also consulted a naval colleague, Commander CJ Singh, who had undertaken a similar trip a month earlier. Thanks Kshama and CJ for your inputs J
Planning this trip while sitting in Bengaluru was not at all easy. We were going to a different continent, visiting three countries, four different time zones and numerous hotels, attractions and flight bookings. The selection of places to visit in itself is a very big task.
Detailed research and meticulous planning paid immense dividends. In all we travelled 47,000 Kms, visited Rio, Foz do Iguacu, Iguassu waterfalls, Lima, Iquitos, the Amazon rain forest, Cusco, Machu Pichhu, Lake Titicaca, Copacabana, La Paz, Uyuni, the Bolivian salt flats , forayed into the Atacama desert and covered much more in 26 days. We undertook 18 flights during this period and stayed in13 hotels and thoroughly enjoyed the adventure. We crossed 4 time zones, made ourselves understood in Portuguese and Spanish with the help of Google translator, tasted different cuisines, travelled in high altitude areas with howling winds and sub zero temperatures.
Each day was different and each offered a totally singular experience. Blazing sun to snowy mountains to waterfalls to exotic cities, arid desert, it was one big jamboree all the way.
Contrary to popular belief, travelling in these places was very safe and we had absolutely no untoward incident during our entire stay. The girls felt safer, than in Namma Bengaluru. The people were extremely helpful, friendly and polite and extended a warm welcome to us at every turn.
Travelling with Jai, Rita and Sushama was wonderful; they make excellent travel companions – cheerful, accommodating and above all blessed with a spirit of adventure.
We returned with loads of unforgettable experiences of places, people and events. Every aspect of the trip unfolded without a single glitch.
I plan to cover all our visits, separately and in detail, in the days to come.
Until then, Cheers.